My grandma Temme was a strong women who was very talented. She was an actress and was in countless plays in her lifetime, as well as a tv movie. She was the beauty queen of her college, and taught me the ways of dress up and makeup application at a young age. She clearly loved theater, and made a point to introduce me to Broadway musicals on the New York stage. She also introduced me to my first opera. She would have the family act out various scenes at our yearly holiday celebrations. Some are hard to recall now, but "Hats" is hard to forget. She used to sing us songs that will forever be ingrained in my brain, some a little weirder than others like, "with her head tucked". My dad performed this song to her in an attempt to have her remember last week in her incoherent state. I don't know if she did, but she did stare at him as to say that he was the one who had lost his mind. I'm sure seeing her that way could have that type of effect on a son.
My grandma was one of the people I've consistently seen almost every single year since birth, at least that's how I remember it. My family also lived with her in Long Branch, NJ when I was still in diapers. I even took my first steps at her house. She has always been an important part of my life. Being that we are both strong willed women with birthdays days apart, we did butt heads on and off. But in the last 15 years I let that go and learned to accept her for who she was - an independent, brave, kind, loyal, loving, nurturing, talented, helpful, intelligent woman.
She would have me visit her at her various homes by the water and I would lay out and sip egg white sodas. I recall each of her homes having the same smell, which was a mixture of something comforting and delicious food. She always made a point to rave about me to every single person that came our way. She was so proud of me and proud to have me in her life as her first granddaughter. Even though I was a rebellious drama queen in my younger years, I was secretly very proud of her too. She was a grandma-fashionista. Every time I saw her, she made a point to wear interesting jewelry, beautiful woven shawls, and have her hair and nails done. I loved her sense of style and looked up at her in this way as well. She also had Toms shoes before they were cool - such a trendsetter. Even during my last visit, her hair was freshly cut in a cute style and her nails were painted red. A ring adorned her finger and a fashionable neck piece lay on her chest connecting her to her hearing aids. She was a diva right up until the end.
One of my most meaningful memories is of our trip to Israel when I was 15. It was an experience I'll never forget. She made a point to help me connect with my Jewish roots, and I appreciated that greatly. My grandpa (her ex-husband) happened to pass away while I was there with her in Jerusalem, which was quite symbolic.
She also greatly admired my Dad of course being that he is a classic "momma's boy". But even though, she would make sure to ask about my Mom every time I saw her. She made a point to show me that she still cared about her even though they parted ways many years back. She also gave really good advice. She would have the perfect piece of wisdom to share about the boys in my life, work, school, and family. She was a very intelligent woman and was always up on the news. She was politically driven and could compete in heated debates.
She was a super Jewish New Jersey bargain shopping Yiddish speaking grandma. She made the best pot roast in the world, and let me eat sugary cereals that my Dad would cringe at the site of. She was the type of grandma that would ask me repeatedly if I was full and if she could get me anything else to eat. She lived to serve those closest to her. Whether it be through food, gifts and/or chotchkies from all of the countries she traveled too, or her offer to help in any way she could in each in every conversation she had with me. Each time I saw her, a big smile would spread across her face and I could instantly see how happy she was to see me. Each phone conversation I had with her made me feel loved, especially in the more recent years. She is the one person that I can honestly say was always happy to hear from me. I'm sure my parents are too, but I could ALWAYS tell with my grandma. I honestly don't know if I will ever have another person like that in my life. I will greatly miss our calls, knowing I could pick up the phone and at least hear the joy in her voice to hear from me, or hearing from her and the joy in her voice to place that call, as well as my joy in receiving it from her. All of our phone conversations would end with "I love you Meeses to Pieces." In the more recent years when she started to become forgetful, she would tell me this over and over and over, but I found it to be sweet. I don't know if it was our special thing, but it felt like it. I will admit that during my trip last week when I heard she was saying it to everyone else I felt a bit jealous.
I will always remember my grandma. She was a force to be reckoned with. There will never be another person in my life that was quite like her. I deeply cherish my memories of her, and I'm so very grateful I was able to be with her and say a version of goodbye while she was barely stable during her last few days. Even though I wasn't with her physically when she passed, I hope some part of her knew I was there the week leading up to it. I know she registered it for at least a min, and held my hand on my last day. That is important to remember. I will admit I did feel angry last week watching her go through so much pain and having her not really know who I was. I was mad that that type of reality can be someone's end. But that anger quickly turned to tears the days following. I am also realizing she was greatly suffering and didn't want to end up that way, so I know she is moving on to a better place.
I love you Grandma, you have and always will mean a lot to me. Rest in peace. xoxo.